Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1974: Martin Balsam in The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three

Martin Balsam did not receive an Oscar nomination, although he did receive a BAFTA nomination for portraying Harold Longman "Mr. Green" in The Taking of Pelham One, Two, Three.

Martin Balsam portrays Mr. Green one of the hijackers of a subway train who hold several passengers hostage for a million dollars. Mr. Green is the hijacker with the greatest knowledge of the subway, and is the only one who is able to drive. He also is the one who has the clearly the greatest conscience of the group, as the hijackers' threat is to kill one hostage per minute after the hour time they have given for the million dollars to reach them.

Balsam performance certainly is not the focus of the film, and really the role of Green could have been forgotten in the light of the main villain Mr. Blue. Balsam though very important does make the most in humanizing one of the hijackers very well. Balsam does not try to make Mr. Green overly sympathetic in any way in regards to any sort of pleading with the audience, Mr. Green still is doing it for the money, but the humanity of Green created by Balsam especially when compared to the others is subtly but powerfully handled by Balsam.

Balsam's performance is made up of quite a few reactionary moments that are extremely well played by him. They are mostly in when Green sees the full extent of Mr. Blue's plan, and that his threats are entirely true. Balsam makes everyone of them impact well as he shows that Green really is in it far deeper than he ever wanted to be, and he portrays an honest realistic disbelief in who is essentially just an average joe who happened to come in on a job that really is not in his line in any way. Balsam is quite moving in just these small important moments best out of anyone portraying the severity of the situation.

My favorite human moments though come in his short little conversations with Mr. Blue as they wait for money. He and Shaw are great together in the way they play off the extreme contrasts in terms of the personality, but in at the same time there is a certain camaraderie and respect between the two as two men working on a project. The two have some nice humorous moments particularly when Balsam talks about Green's reason for firing which was a crime he did not commit. The two back and forth in the moment is terrific showing a human side to both character but not at all compromising the intensity of the later scenes in the film.

Balsam gives a very good performance by making Green likable, and he even effectively twists the audiences sympathy just to the right making it so you do not want the hijackers simply all to be killed. He turns Mr. Green into any actual normal man who embarks on a rather foolish endeavor. Balsam allows us to follow Mr. Green through this decision all the way through both the lows, and the seeming highs. He believably shows entirely genuine reactions to what Mr. Green goes through the entire film. Balsam with a character who could have been a throwaway he makes Green three dimensional, and doing so adds greatly to his film.


RatedRStar said...

I actually enjoy Balsams work most of the time such as 12 Angry Men, Psycho and this, such a shame that his oscar win is one of the worst ever (Tom Courtenay would have been a perfect choice given his youthful age at the time).

Louis Morgan said...

His win is actually quite strange in that he is barely remembered as an Oscar winner do begin with. It is a shame he won for that though as in most everything else I have seen him in he is a more than competent character actor.

He also probably should have won an Emmy or something for his Twilight Zone episode where he plays a psychotic obsessed with his wax figures.